Dictionary.com has named “allyship” as the 2021 word of the year. The website defines allyship, a noun, as “the status or role of a person who advocates and actively works for the inclusion of a marginalized or politicized group in all areas of society, not as a member of that group but in solidarity with its struggle and point of view and under its leadership.”
Additionally, a second definition states allyship as being “the relationship or status of persons, groups, or nations associating and cooperating with one another for a common cause or purpose.”
Allyship was only added to the online dictionary last month. Dictionary.com’s John Kelly, associate director of content and education, explained to the Associated Press that while allyship may be a “surprising choice to some,” the term has taken on a new new and specific meanings in the past years, and continues to evolve.
The site noted that allyship first surfaced back in the mid-1800s, with “ally” being first recorded around 1250-1300. The usage of allyship has gone up tremendously in the past decade – the frequency of the word has jumped to an average of 700%, while the word ally landing with the top 850 words searched.
Allyship has become frequently used in today’s society, as many companies and individuals have taken up the defined role as they try to advocate for groups that have long been marginalized, such as minority groups or the LGBTQ communities – a prime reason why the word was chosen, Kelly explained.
Topics searched alongside allyship included “workplace,” “diversity,” “equality,” “inclusion,” and “critical race theory (CRT).” CRT and DEI also made their debut on the site this year as well.
Of course, Dictionary.com isn’t the end all be all when it comes to the “word of the year.” Every dictionary has their own selection. Merriam-Webster chose “vaccine” as their word of the year, for obvious reasons. “This was a word that was extremely high in our data every single day in 2021,” Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski told AP.
“It really represents two different stories. One is the science story, which is this remarkable speed with which the vaccines were developed. But there’s also the debates regarding policy, politics and political affiliation. It’s one word that carries these two huge stories.”
Searches for “vaccine” on Merriam-Webster increased by 601%, with this year seeing an 1,048% increase. Updated boosters, constant talk of vaccine mandates, and the role they play in today’s travel helped to keep the searches high.
Oxford Dictionary went in a similar direction, choosing “vax” as their word of the year – although the word can be defined in numerous ways, such as the treatment of a person, a vaccine, and one opposed to vaccination or vaccines. Use of the word “vax” increased by 57,000 in 2021.
Other words Merriam-Webster saw an increase in were “insurrection” — obviously due to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots — “infrastructure,” “nomad,” and “perseverance,” the “most sophisticated” Mars rover that landed back in February.
Meanwhile, Collins Dictionary awarded “NFT”, or “non-fungible token,” as their word of the year. NFTs have become extremely popular in the cryptocurrency world, and are essentially digital assets — some worth in the millions — which can come in forms like pieces of art, trading cards, or even real estate.
Andrew Rhoades is a Contributing Reporter at The National Digest based in New York. A Saint Joseph’s University graduate, Rhoades’ reporting includes sports, U.S., and entertainment. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.